A section of lawyers in Uganda has declared their intention to boycott the opening of the New Law Year in Kampala, citing concerns over the recent High Court ruling that restricted the Uganda Law Society (ULS) from discussing the perceived interference with judicial independence by President Museveni. President Museveni is scheduled to attend the event, which also includes the grand opening of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal twin appellate towers.
The lawyers argue that an independent judiciary cannot exist without a robust and active bar association. They criticize what they perceive as a gag order preventing them from addressing issues pertinent to the judiciary’s independence. As a result, they have called for a boycott of the New Law Year event.
This decision follows a ruling by Justice Musa Ssekaana of the High Court’s Civil Division, who issued an order halting the ULS from holding an extraordinary general meeting to discuss challenges facing judicial independence. The meeting aimed to address President Museveni’s involvement in a court matter and the alleged silence of legal leaders on issues affecting the judiciary.
Despite the ruling, the concerned lawyers condemned the decision, stating that it represents a new low for both the judiciary and the national bar association. They argue that such interference violates constitutional provisions safeguarding the independence of the courts.
The President of the ULS, Mr. Bernard Oundo, acknowledged the concerns raised by some members and pledged to issue an official statement on the matter.
This is not the first time lawyers have boycotted the New Law Year opening. In 2015, then-president of the Uganda Law Society, Ms. Ruth Sebatindira, led a similar boycott to protest delays in appointing a substantive Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice.